I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is March...
In organized rows up and down the convention center ballroom were 400 pinball machines, along with a handful of other classic video games, simultaneously dinging and whirring and clacking and glowing. It was sensory overload and it was fantastic. Some of the machines were for sale and some were just for exhibition, but they’re all available to play. In addition to the game room, the festival hosts a swap meet, vendors, speakers, tournaments, and even celebrity guests – Lou Ferrigno was set up next to an Incredible Hulk pinball and was available for some mean selfies.
Though my brother-in- law has been restoring pinball machines and exhibiting them at the festival for several years, I had never been and he knew exactly where to point me first: Dolly Parton. My sister and I have a thing for Dolly. I mean, forget the Leg Lamp. This machine by Bally epitomizes the soft glow of electric sex. Well, maybe that was the Playboy pinball, but this is a close second.
I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of vintage-era machines and more modern pop culture references as we walked up and down the aisles. The older machines drew me in with their stylistic art, interesting shapes, and amazing analog (for lack of a better word) playfields. The craftsmanship of these machines was undeniable and something to appreciate.
But, man, the pop culture machines were fun to play, too. The lines were usually longer for these pinballs, but worth the wait. We stopped at The Wizard of Oz, The Big Lebowski, Game of Thrones, The Simpsons, and a few others for a chance to beat high scores (which totally did not happen).
My favorite machine of the night had to be the Zissou Life Aquatic pinball. It was an older, re-themed machine – a vintage body with a pop culture makeover – and the Adidas and Campari just finished it off perfectly. If only I had been wearing my red beanie! #teamzissou
I highly recommend attending the Texas Pinball Festival next year if you get the chance. Go with a group of friends and make a day of it. It’s worth the price of admission for even a few short hours, but, really, there’s so much to explore and see and do and hear, you’ll need a full day.